Stuff in the ‘Joseph Kelly’ Category

30 October, 2018

MAROONED: Jamestown, Shipwreck, and a New History of America’s Origin, Joseph Kelly, Ph.D.

“The U.S. loves its creation myths, and this mythmaking, myth-breaking history gives us a new character, Stephen Hopkins… Though Hopkins and those like him left few records, Kelly fleshes out the available glimpses with a vivid, detailed description of the settlement and its English and Native American contexts…Kelly’s dynamic narrative brings Jamestown to life and shows how history reflects the present as well as the past.” ―starred review, Booklist

For readers of Nathaniel Philbrick’s Mayflower, a groundbreaking history that makes the case for replacing Plymouth Rock with Jamestown as America’s founding myth. 

We all know the great American origin story. It begins with an exodus. Fleeing religious persecution, the hardworking, pious Pilgrims thrived in the wilds of New England, where they built their fabled city on a hill. Legend goes that the colony in Jamestown was a false start, offering a cautionary tale. Lazy louts hunted gold till they starved, and the shiftless settlers had to be rescued by English food and the hard discipline of martial law.

Neither story is true. In Marooned, Joseph Kelly reexamines the history of Jamestown and comes to a radically different and decidedly American interpretation of these first Virginians.

In this gripping account of shipwrecks and mutiny in America’s earliest settlements, Kelly argues that the colonists at Jamestown were literally and figuratively marooned, cut loose from civilization, and cast into the wilderness. The British caste system meant little on this frontier: those who wanted to survive had to learn to work and fight and intermingle with the nearby native populations. Ten years before the Mayflower Compact and decades before Hobbes and Locke, they invented the idea of government by the people. 150 years before Jefferson, they discovered the truth that all men were equal.

The epic origin of America was not an exodus and a fledgling theocracy. It is a tale of shipwrecked castaways of all classes marooned in the wilderness fending for themselves in any way they could–a story that illuminates who we are today.

“[A] stimulating history of Jamestown . . . a superb portrait of the founding, combining brilliant detail with epic sweep.” ―Starred review, Publishers Weekly

“An insightful re-examination of the 1607 Jamestown settlement . . . Kelly’s lively, heavily researched, frequently gruesome account gives a slight nod to Jamestown as the ‘better place to look for the genesis of American ideals.’” ―Starred review, Kirkus Reviews

“Joseph Kelley’s Marooned is a tale of intrigue, betrayal, and redemption from American’s colonial past. It is also a moving reimagining of the American story. Kelley’s history of Jamestown shows that America is a community born of marooned colonists, escaped slaves, and native inhabitants thrown together by an accident of history, and that the creed of liberty inscribed in the nation’s founding is not a foreign importation, but the unique inheritance of this potent brew.” ―William Egginton, author of THE SPLINTERING OF THE AMERICAN MIND

“Joseph Kelly’s Marooned re-tells the early American story with salutary attention to Native Americans, non-elite English settlers, and the dramas of shipwreck, maroonage, and self-determination. Familiar figures such as John Smith and Pocahontas get reinvented in the bloody story of Jamestown’s struggle against famine and incompetent leadership. Most excitingly, he offers new figures for the first English Americans, especially the rebellious commoner Stephen Hopkins, who lived, labored, and sometimes resisted authority in Bermuda, Jamestown, and eventually Plymouth Rock. Hopkins’s desire for liberty and struggle against aristocratic despotism make the marooned commoner a powerful figure for what was newly American about the early English experience of the New World.” ―Steve Mentz, author of SHIPWRECK MODERNITY: ECOLOGIES OF GLOBALIZATION 1550-1719


15 April, 2014

Where I Write: Joseph Kelly

Joseph KellyThe next post in our “Where I Write” series, in which JDA authors take you behind the scenes to their favorite writing spots, is from Joseph Kelly, author of America’s Longest Siege: Charleston, Slavery, and the Slow March Toward Civil War,  which Library Journal described as a, “vivid and engrossing study of slavery in and around one of its trading hubs, Charleston, SC, site of the first and longest Civil War siege and a hotbed of political, economic, religious, and moral debates about importing, owning, and trading slaves. Well written and finely detailed, Kelly’s debut historical work is an important contribution to Southern antebellum history…”

Describing his favorite writing spot, Kelly says, “It’s a moveable feast.  I start at the kitchen counter, with the house still asleep, the laptop elbow distance from the kettle on the boil for coffee.  When the teenagers get up, their bagels, Cheerios, and chatter push me and my second cup to the sectional and coffee table where my wife’s reading the paper.  On days I teach, it’s all over by 7:30.  On days I don’t teach, there’s another couple of hours after breakfast in a room full of sunny windows, where I’m supposed to write, where the desktop computer sits, patient as a piece of furniture.”


30 October, 2013

History Book Club selects America’s Longest Siege

Americas-Longest-Siege-100x150So pleased that the History Book Club has selected Joseph Kelly’s America’s Longest Siege: Charleston, Slavery and the Slow March Toward Civil War for their Winter Catalog.  Civil War buffs shouldn’t miss this fascinating book.

The Library Journal said, “Kelly brings a literary sensibility to this vivid and engrossing study of slavery in and around one of its trading hubs, Charleston, SC, site of the first and longest Civil War siege and a hotbed of political, economic, religious, and moral debates about importing, owning, and trading slaves. Well written and finely detailed, Kelly’s debut historical work is an important contribution to Southern antebellum history and is highly recommended to scholarly readers.”


4 September, 2013

Carving Out a Narrative from a Sea of Fascinating Details – On Writing History by Joseph Kelly

Joseph KellyAmerica's Longest SiegeI fell into this book sideways.  A long time ago, I wrote a short article for the Encyclopedia of the Irish in America, and I was hooked by the strange life of John England, the first Catholic bishop of Charleston.  Raised in Cork, Ireland, this prickly champion of Catholic emancipation stuck like a thorn in the side of the British Empire.  A nervous Catholic hierarchy more or less exiled him to the missionary church at the southern extreme of the United States.  He arrived on the Cooper River pier armed with a hatred of racism and a devotion to civil liberties.  He opened a school for black children.  He went to Haiti to negotiate a treaty between that black republic and the Vatican.  And yet, in his dying months he wrote a series of letters attempting to prove that Christianity condoned slavery.

How could such a champion of human rights end up apologizing for this crime against humanity?  Here, I thought, was the stuff of tragedy, and I was determined to find out the whole story.  But this was a different kind of writing for someone whose trade is literary criticism.  I’d written several articles and a book on Irish literature–James Joyce in particular–but no historical narrative.

Somewhat naively, I wrote a hundred pages on the life of Bishop England.  The thread of causes took me back further, and I wrote two hundred pages on the life of Henry Laurens, the second president of the Continental Congress.  I knew these “chapters” were far too long, but I was lost in the details, seduced by the drama of these lives, and I couldn’t see the real story, the important story caked in the dirt of all of this material.

I found an agent at Joëlle Delbourgo Associates who believed in what I was doing.  Molly Lyons helped me transform my ideas into a real proposal, which got us a lead at Overlook Press.  The editors there, first Rob Crawford and then Dan Crissman, coached me further, until that story emerged–a multi-generational tale of rebellions, torture, Machiavellian twists, duels, speeches from the Senate floor, and bloody battles.

America’s Longest Siege tells the story of slavery as it evolved in the American South.   It comes to a conclusion that common wisdom and most historians dispute:  slavery not only should have but would have withered away in the new republic, if not for the very hard work of a surprisingly few, greedy people from Charleston.  That story is as current today as it ever was:  even now we’re debating nullification; even today we’re torturing prisoners; the wagon wheels of today’s South still groan in the grooves of old Carolina roads.

There’s hardly a trace of literary criticism in this book–a dozen pages on the eminent novelist, William Gilmore Simms, but no more.  Yet I feel that I’ve been training to write this book ever since I set foot in graduate school.  This is a story about an idea, just about the worst idea ever promoted in America.  And ideas have to manifest in words–the stuff of literary critics–and the words have to come from the mouths of individual people.

Though I had to throw away most of those biographical pages, they were not wasted.  They taught me to write biography, and my book is first and foremost about people, those who invented and promoted the “positive good theory” of slavery, those who opposed it, and those who wanted to oppose it but failed.  What fascinated me about these people–people like Bishop John England–was their moral stories.  I hope that the lives I write about inhabit the imaginations of my readers as vitally as any character in fiction.


21 July, 2013

Kelly

Photo credit: Leslie McKeller

Whether he’s writing about John Smith or John C. Calhoun, about the Union’s siege of Charleston in the Civil War or the shipwrecked birth of America, Joseph Kelly looks for the human story, fully painting the figures who make history happen. Always he aims to write about complex ideas and history in lively, readable prose. His interests range from the obscenity trial of James Joyce’s Ulysses to U. S. Southern history. Currently, he’s tackling the maroons, mutineers, and pirates who pioneered the idea of America. His Marooned: Shipwreck, Jamestown, and the Epic Story of the First Americans was published by Bloomsbury Press in Fall 2018.

In addition to several critical and biographical articles on James Joyce, Kelly’s first book, Our Joyce:  From Outcast to Icon, uses extensive archival research to uncover the manipulations of this monumental figure of modern literature by liberals and conservatives in the American culture wars.  His popular introductory books on short stories, poems, essays, and plays, W. W. Norton & Company’s Seagull Readers, have sold well over 100,000 copies and are entering their 4th edition.  His latest offering from Overlook Press, America’s Longest Siege:  Charleston, Slavery, and the Slow March toward Civil War, “brings a literary sensibility to the craft of history writing,” according to the eminent Lincoln scholar, Orville Vernon Burton.

Kelly earned his Ph. D. in literature with a minor in history from the University of Texas at Austin in 1992.  Since then, he has been teaching a variety of courses at the College of Charleston, most recently Irish nationalism and culture, urban geography, and composition.  He is the Co-Director of the College of Charleston’s Commission on Diversity, a Faculty Administrative Fellow in the President’s office, and a recent recipient of the Charleston’s Distinguished Service Award and Leo I. Higden Outstanding Leadership Award.